On Friday at WWDC, Apple officially launched Business Chat for iMessage in developer preview—a feature that helps businesses connect to customers and even process purchases with Apple Pay, all through iMessage.
"Using Business Chat, your customers can get answers to questions, resolve issues, and complete transactions on their iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch," according to the developer preview website.
With Business Chat, customers will find message icons alongside the names of businesses in Siri, Safari, Spotlight, and Maps. They can click on these icons to initiate a chat to ask questions, schedule appointments, and make purchases, all with built-in features, according to the product's registration website.
Businesses can also build custom iMessage apps for their customers, and help them complete tasks faster. For example, an airline could create a custom app that allows passengers to change their seat from within the iMessage chat.
With Apple Pay in Business Chat, customers can quickly and securely provide payment, shipping, and contact information to check out with one tap, Apple said. "Customers love the simplicity of Apple Pay, and you'll love the increased conversion rates and new user adoption that come with it," according to the website.
Business Chat also includes a scheduling function, allowing businesses to schedule appointments and deliveries with customers using a built-in app. An included list app helps companies present different options for customers to choose from—for example, a product in all of its different colors—without leaving the iMessage conversation window.
Further, the platform's predictive text feature makes it easier for customers to enter their information: When a business asks a customer via chat for their phone number, address, current location, or email, the keyboard makes intelligent suggestions that help the customer respond with one tap.
And if a customer does not yet have a company's app downloaded, they can do so directly from the chat conversation window.
With the developer preview, businesses can begin using the service on iOS 11 by integrating contact centers and getting ready for public release, according to Apple. Business Chat currently works with customer service platforms LivePerson, Salesforce, Nuance, and Genesys.
Business Chat is set to compete with similar customer service offerings from Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and WhatsApp. The platform that wins out will likely be the one that is easiest for customers to integrate into daily life and provides the most useful context.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
1. Apple's new Business Chat for iMessage launched in developer preview on Friday at WWDC, giving businesses a new option for connecting with customers and processing payments on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.
2. Customers can initiate a chat to ask questions, schedule appointments, and make purchases by clicking on message icons alongside the names of businesses in Siri, Safari, Spotlight, and Maps.
3. Business Chat will compete with similar customer service chats from Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and WhatsApp.
- WWDC 2017: All the news about iOS 11 (TechRepublic)
- The Macintosh we deserve: How Apple can win back loyalty from professionals (TechRepublic)
- Apple takes on Amazon Echo with $350 Siri-powered HomePod (TechRepublic)
- WWDC 2017: Apple launches augmented reality developer tools with ARKit (ZDNet)
- WWDC 2017: Apple positions Mac updates, Mac OS High Sierra for VR developers (ZDNet)
- WWDC 2017: iOS 11 revealed with more Siri smarts, AR support (ZDNet)
- CNET's WWDC 2017 coverage (CNET)
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.